No matter the career, one of the most surefire ways to improve one’s professional prospects is to learn a new skill or further develop one that already exists. This is especially true when considering fields that require extensive work with data, an area where formal training has lagged behind growing demand. To help combat this gap, entrepreneur and data scientist Jonathan Cornelissen has worked to make continuing education more accessible through publications and the co-founding of DataCamp – a company that teaches competent data use. We’ve taken a deeper look at his life and ideas to inform readers about the modern state of continuing education.
Cornelissen, born in Antwerp, Belgium, showed an aptitude for learning at an early age, focusing on both Greek and mathematics while attending Sint-Albertus high school. He utilized that foundation during his studies at the Catholic University of Leuven, based in Belgium. His undergraduate degree was focused in commercial engineering, a field that puts a strong emphasis on critical thinking and problem-solving. This area of study also requires a strong level of proficiency in both mathematics and statistics to better model the state of real-world problems.
Following his introduction to the power of statistics, Cornelissen went on to obtain his doctorate in econometrics, again from the Catholic University of Leuven. During his time pursuing this degree, the future entrepreneur immersed himself in the study of statistics and data. This period helped convince him of how proficiency in data analysis can be applied to a wide variety of fields. Namely, this work showed how many areas of the economy could use data to better manage systemic issues that lead to inefficiencies.
Importance of Data
Cornelissen took the lessons he learned from his academic studies to heart in his work after obtaining his degree. One of the hallmarks of this work was a continuing resolution to spread the word of how data can help change a huge range of activities in everyday life. One way he accomplished this goal was by publishing writings in a variety of mediums, such as online blogs, scientific journals, and academic periodicals.
One evergreen topic for the scientist and entrepreneur is the importance of spreading data analysis to the masses, a process he has referred to as the democratization of data science. Writing for the Harvard Business Review, he touched on the ways that data science accessibility has helped governments improve tax revenue, sociologists better understand cultural shifts, and businesses improve financial outcomes. These seemingly disparate examples help illustrate how a full comprehension of data fluency can not only benefit a few data scientists intent on furthering the field but how it can be a powerful tool in the hands of almost any modern professional.
This conviction – that understanding data science is an important component for anyone in an organization to master – helped contribute to the founding of Jonathan Cornelissen’s company, DataCamp. By offering a comprehensive catalog of lessons and resources aimed at improving data literacy, the company has helped a wide range of people better understand the ways that data can contribute to their professional and personal abilities. Though the concept of measuring workplace output has been around for ages, the idea that the ability to analyze trends can be important for all employees has not. In fact, many people have traditionally considered such analysis to be the purview of a specific subset of employees.
Thanks to continuing education initiatives, like DataCamp, that preconception is slowly changing. Now, more and more organizations are recognizing that data analysis is a tool that can empower an entire workforce to better understand the connection between inputs and outputs in their professional endeavors. It can also help large entities better understand the ways in which a broad economic, social, or political context can have a direct impact on small-scale activities. While valuable on their own, these insights are also a powerful indicator of what can be accomplished with an increased focus on education and improving individual skill sets.
Though the democratization of data has been an important part of the data scientist’s professional life, he has also worked as an angel investor to help encourage entrepreneurship. One of the businesses that he has supported is FlyThere, an internet-based company that allows customers to remotely pilot drones. The service not only gives people a chance to explore new portions of the world also introduces them to the considerations involved when flying a drone – a first-time experience for many people.
Another business that the angel investor has supported is Clever Girl Finance. This startup reflects back on his focus on education and providing users with the ability to improve financial outcomes through the accumulation of new skills. The business not only offers formalized courses but also boasts a robust community of like-minded individuals who help other users gain new financial skills. One-on-one mentoring is also available. Taken as a whole, the business’s services help users better control the financial aspects of their lives and control their own access to opportunity and security.
Though we often hear about the importance of keeping education a constant pursuit throughout life, it can be a goal that’s easier said than done. With the advent of services that allow users to expand access to education, such as those created by Jonathan Cornelissen, many people are finding it easier than ever to improve their lives. With a specific focus on data science, the entrepreneur has also helped numerous large organizations understand how they can encourage growth by providing employees with enhanced data-related skill sets. As this trend continues into the future, expect such forward-thinking activities to become the norm and for data science to become an increasingly hot commodity in the world’s economies.
More about Jonathan Cornelissen here.